PESHAWAR/ ISLAMABAD: The once-iconic figure portraying Afghan refugees on the cover of National Geographic magazine, Sharbat Gula, has been remanded into custody for two weeks after her two-day physical custody ended on Friday. Gula was later sent to Central Prison here.
The next hearing of the case will be held on November 1.
She flatly denied the charges and pleaded innocence when she was presented in court.
FIA officials informed the court that Gula had migrated to Pakistan with her family during the Afghan War (in the 1980s) and she stayed at the Nasir Bagh refugee camp.
Photographer of NatGeo's 'Afghan Girl' objects to arrest
Subsequently, she moved to a house in the Nauthia Qadeem area of the city, the officials said. She fraudulently obtained a CNIC with the help of certain NADRA officials. Before obtaining a CNIC, she had been issued a proof of registration card to confirm her refugee status.
The officials requested the court to send her on judicial remand after completion of physical remand.
Senior Pakistani officials have assured top Afghan envoy Omar Zakhilwal that Sharbat Gula would soon be freed, a statement issued by the envoy said on Friday.
The Afghan envoy said that Pakistan’s foreign affairs adviser Sartaj Aziz had given him the assurance.
A legal team arranged by Afghan officials in Peshawar met relevant legal departments on Friday seeking details of the case, Ambassador Zakhilwal said.
The envoy said he had called up Sartaj Aziz in this regard and subsequently wrote a formal letter seeking her release.
“Sharbat Gula’s arrest as well as her release can have far reaching impact on Pakistan-Afghan people-to-people relations.”
Citing legal weaknesses of the case against her, he said that he had requested Sartaj Aziz to issues a directive for Sharbat Gula’s release.
“Sartaj Aziz gave me assurances for which I am grateful,” he said in a statement.
Sharbat Gula, now 46, was 12 in 1984 when she was photographed by Steve McCurry for one of the most famous National Geographic magazine covers.
FIA arrests NatGeo’s Afghan girl in Peshawar
The photographer in question also extended support to secure her release after her arrest.
The move, he said, “completely contradicts Pakistan government’s efforts to win the hearts and minds in Afghanistan”.
Clarifying the charges against Sharbat Gula, he said her husband had died recently, rendering her a poor widow heading her family.
“Unlike police claims, her ID card was not forged and it was not obtained fraudulently,” the Afghan ambassador maintained.
He said that Kabul would facilitate Sharbat Gula’s immediate return to Afghanistan.
According to him, just prior to her arrest, she had sold her small house and was on the verge of returning to Afghanistan.
“I want to add that in 2002 when Sharbat Gula was rediscovered by the National Geographic, she … received offers of resettlement in many Western countries, but she preferred to … live in … Pakistan.”
Published in The Express Tribune, October 29th, 2016.
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